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Is the probate process always necessary?

When it comes to estate administration, the word probate makes a lot of people cringe. The idea can be scary and confusing, especially to those who may not understand how it works. Thankfully, not every estate is subject to the probate process. This column will go over why probate may be necessary for estates administered in Massachusetts.

First off, there are certain legal steps that one can take when going through the estate planning process to help loved ones avoid probate down the line. Making sure real estate and personal property titles are correct, ensuring beneficiaries are assigned and creating a will and/or trust are all good places to start. However, there are some things that may be in an estate that will make avoiding probate impossible.

Probate may be required for a number of reasons. Some of these include establishing the validity of a will, paying or disputing creditor claims, addressing family complaints, paying taxes and making title changes -- among many others. It is only after issues with an estate are addressed that the designated executor or personal representative will be allowed to distribute assets in a manner approved by the court.

There is no doubt that avoiding probate would be nice. No one -- in Massachusetts or elsewhere -- wants to drag out administering an estate. Depending on the details of an estate, the probate process may or may not be necessary. If it is, with the assistance of legal counsel, it can be completed as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Source: mass.gov, "Is it always necessary to probate an estate?", Accessed on Nov. 22, 2016

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